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Cheney's Speech Tonight

4:09 PM, Oct 21, 2009 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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It's time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger.

Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.

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Our administration always faced its share of criticism, and from some quarters it was always intense. That was especially so in the later years of our term, when the dangers were as serious as ever, but the sense of general alarm after 9/11 was a fading memory. Part of our responsibility, as we saw it, was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America … and not to let 9/11 become the prelude to something much bigger and far worse.

Eight years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive - and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed. So you would think that our successors would be going to the intelligence community saying, "How did you did you do it? What were the keys to preventing another attack over that period of time?"

Instead, they've chosen a different path entirely - giving in to the angry left, slandering people who did a hard job well, and demagoguing an issue more serious than any other they'll face in these four years. No one knows just where that path will lead, but I can promise you this: There will always be plenty of us willing to stand up for the policies and the people that have kept this country safe.

On the political left, it will still be asserted that tough interrogations did no good, because this is an article of faith for them, and actual evidence is unwelcome and disregarded. President Obama himself has ruled these methods out, and when he last addressed the subject he filled the air with vague and useless platitudes. His preferred device is to suggest that we could have gotten the same information by other means. We're invited to think so. But this ignores the hard, inconvenient truth that we did try other means and techniques to elicit information from Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and other al-Qaeda operatives, only turning to enhanced techniques when we failed to produce the actionable intelligence we knew they were withholding. In fact, our intelligence professionals, in urgent circumstances with the highest of stakes, obtained specific information, prevented specific attacks, and saved American lives.

In short, to call enhanced interrogation a program of torture is not only to disregard the program's legal underpinnings and safeguards. Such accusations are a libel against dedicated professionals who acted honorably and well, in our country's name and in our country's cause. What's more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future, in favor of half-measures, is unwise in the extreme. In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.

For all that we've lost in this conflict, the United States has never lost its moral bearings - and least of all can that be said of our armed forces and intelligence personnel. They have done right, they have made our country safer, and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them.

The full speech after the jump...As prepared for delivery
October 21, 2009

Thank you all very much. It's a pleasure to be here, and especially to receive the Keeper of the Flame Award in the company of so many good friends.

I'm told that among those you've recognized before me was my friend Don Rumsfeld. I don't mind that a bit. It fits something of a pattern. In a career that includes being chief of staff, congressman, and secretary of defense, I haven't had much that Don didn't get first. But truth be told, any award once conferred on Donald Rumsfeld carries extra luster, and I am very proud to see my name added to such a distinguished list.

To Frank Gaffney and all the supporters of Center for Security Policy, I thank you for this honor. And I thank you for the great energy and high intelligence you bring to as vital a cause as there is - the advance of freedom and the uncompromising defense of the United States.

Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your country's word.